Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin
Moscow, which conspicuously left out any mention of China’s growing influence and power in its newly adopted military doctrine, is revealing the depth of its alarm, however, through its trade and business decisions, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
The new doctrine takes aim at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which Moscow identifies as a threat due to its eastward expansion ambitions. But a glance at the trade balance sheets between Moscow and Beijing and other business decisions reveals an equal concern is developing there.
Not only are trade channels drying up, the Kremlin is planning an uptick in military exercises this year focusing on the Far East and also is reaching out to enhance its relationship with nations that surround China, signaling a possible containment policy toward Beijing.
Russia recently agreed to sell a dozen Su-30 top-of-the-line fighter aircraft to Vietnam, in addition to an increase in other arms exports such as the recent Vietnamese purchase of six Russian Kilo submarines.
A key analyst has concluded that while Moscow’s policy doesn’t directly mention China, it includes references to the nation because of its mention of a “real possibility of military conflict.” The alarm follows China’s training program for what would appear to be an invasion of Russia.
Further, Russian-Chinese trade last year fell some 31.8 percent from 2008, to only $38.8 billion.
‘A nuclear Tehran with the present regime is a threat of survival scale’
JERUSALEM – Israel does not need American permission to strike Iran, said Shabtai Shavit, former chief of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, in an exclusive interview with Aaron Klein, WND’s Jerusalem bureau chief.
Asked whether Israel must coordinate with the U.S. on any future military actions against Iran’s nuclear facilities, Shavit replied, “I don’t think that Israel needs American permission when it comes to the survival of Israel.”
“But I would expect Israel to try to coordinate such a move if push comes to shove,” Shavit said.
Shavit, who traditionally shies away from news media interviews, was speaking during an interview on New York’s WABC Radio with Klein, who hosts a weekend show on station.
Shavit posited that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s declaration last week that his country is a nuclear state “proves that the international strategy addressing the nuclear threat until today was completely wrong.”
Shavit said he doesn’t see a consensus materializing to push through the crippling sanctions that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been lobbying for.
Shavit did suggest, however, strong sanctions may still work to dissuade Iran from forging ahead with its nuclear ambitions.
“If there is a consensus among the U.S., Europe, Russia and China, I believe it is still possible to convince the Iranians that for them the price that they will have to pay for achieving the nuclear ways is prohibitive for them,” he said.
Asked by Klein whether Israel should strike Iran if sanctions failed and Tehran pressed ahead with its uranium enrichment program, Shavit replied, “I wouldn’t like to elaborate too much about this section, but I will only say that a nuclear Iran with the present regime of the extremists’ fanaticism – this is a threat of a survival scale.”
In front of 300 diplomats, including senior US officials, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said the US was violating international law by a proposed arms sale to Taiwan, and defended Chinese TV and radio as more reliable than Western media.
Why do China sell weapons to failed states like North Korea or Burma or Iran?
By Robert Marquand
Today Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi, speaking with unusual bluntness in front of 300 leading diplomats – including senior US officials – here in Munich publicly stated that China is getting stronger on the international stage. He said the US was violating international law by a proposed arms sale to Taiwan, offered that China’s TV and radio news service contains “more solid” and reliable news than Western media, and that China is not ready to address sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program, stating instead that the Islamic Republic “has not totally closed the door on the IAEA.”
Transatlantic – meet the Pacific.
Foreign Minister Yang is the first Chinese official to speak at the annual Munich Security Conference, the premier transatlantic security meeting, in its 46 year history. He turned heads in the group at a time when the People’s Republic and the US have come to loggerheads over Taiwan arms sales, Internet freedom, currency rates, and climate policy coming out of the Copenhagen meeting in December.
“I haven’t heard a high-ranking Chinese official say, ‘Yes, we are strong,’ in a public setting before,” said a senior German diplomat. “It was a very assertive message, different, and it means we will soon see a different Chinese policy.”
Mr. Yang, a former ambassador to the US and highly respected, gave a somewhat conventional speech – though in a strong voice. He affirmed that China is both a developed and a developing country, that it seeks “win-win solutions,” and that it is preparing for greater “shared responsibilities” on the world stage – and that it played a transformative role in helping avert a global financial crisis in the past year.
Yet during three probing follow-up questions, Yang mopped his brow repeatedly in answering on Taiwan, cyberspace, and China’s position on Iran’s nuclear program, which he earlier admitted was “at a crucial stage.”
“Does China feel stronger? Yes,” he said as questions opened.
Regarding a proposed US $6.4 billion package of arms for Taiwan introduced in recent weeks by the Obama administration, and which China has for the first time threatened retaliatory sanctions on US firms that supply arms – Yang called it a “violation of the code of conduct among nations” by the US, said China has “every reason to feel indignant about this thing,” and added that Beijing has a “sovereign right to do what is necessary” in response.
He went on to say China is “totally against hacking attacks…I don’t know how this Google thing has popped up” – in response to a question about cyberspace. At a time when the American search engine giant has said it may leave China after repeated hacks on human rights workers, and British intelligence has reported official Chinese espionage against business travelers, Yang said that “China is a victim” of hacking.
The cyberspace answers were prefaced with polemics on the virtues of Chinese news gathering. The Chinese people have better news than members of the western public, and “freedom of speech is what we advocate,” Yang said, adding that with 15 million Chinese traveling abroad every year, “the Chinese people are well informed.” Yang also said that while foreign companies were free to enter China, and that many had done well there, they still must submit to Chinese laws, “and what is in the best interest of China.”
China’s presence at the 48-hour Munich conference, hosted by German diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger, and that will include US National Security Advisor James Jones, follows a robust Chinese presence at the annual Davos conference in Switzerland, where China rented one of the most splendid villas – used in the past by Microsoft.
Gary Smith, director of the American Academy in Berlin, said that Yuan’s assertive speech did not contain the kind of direct dynamite that Vladimir Putin’s address here did in 2007, when Russia’s then-president affirmed that Russia would taking a newly assertive role on the world stage. But Yuan’s comments nonetheless would be felt strongly here, Smith said: “Europeans have been terrified by this kind of moment…they’ve been obsessed by the rise of China and India.
“[Yuan’s remarks] tells this group that the hard work of Atlantic consensus on global issues can be negligible if the Chinese don’t agree to play ball.”
Russia returned to the global stage Friday as a first-rank military and technological power by launching a ‘fifth generation’ fighter plane, with futuristic characteristics of stealth, sustained supersonic cruise, and integrated weapons.
By Fred Weir
Vladimir Putin is jubilant, the Russian aviation industry is filled with pride, and even normally skeptical military experts say they’re truly impressed by reports Friday that Russia has successfully test-flown the first prototype of a “fifth generation” fighter plane.
They all may have good reasons to cheer. Building such a plane is so expensive, complex, and technologically sophisticated that, until now, only the United States has been able to field an operational version of one: the F-22 Raptor.
According to news reports, Russia’s venerable Sukhoi company – maker of many famous Soviet warplanes – sent the V-tailed, swept-wing Sukhoi T-50 on its maiden flight for 47 minutes Friday near Komsomolsk-na-Amur in Russia’s far east (see video here) and it exceeded all expectations.
“We started flight tests of the fifth-generation aircraft today,” Sukhoi CEO Mikhail Pogosyan told Russian news agencies. “I am strongly convinced that this project will excel its Western rivals in cost-effectiveness and these planes will constitute the backbone of the Russian Air Force for the next few decades.”
A fighter of the “fifth generation” should have futuristic characteristics of stealth, sustained supersonic cruise, multi-role capabilities, integrated weapons and navigation systems that are controlled by artificial intelligence, over-the-horizon radar visibility and other cutting-edge wizardry.
Experts say that the mere fact that Russia can put one into the air announces its return to the global stage as a first-rank military and technological power.
“This is an epic event, because it’s the first time in post-Soviet history that [the Russian military industry] has been able to create something brand new,” Alexander Khramchikhin, an expert with the independent Institute of Political and Military Analysis in Moscow, says in a telephone interview.
“Everything we produced after the USSR’s collapse was based on Soviet designs; nobody thought we could make anything so technologically complicated as this. But now, strange as it may seem, this shows Russia’s level is very high.”
Kremlin leaders have been promising to build this new aircraft for years as part of a broader effort to re-arm and modernize Russia’s crumbling Soviet-era armed forces. Though Russia handily won its brief 2008 war with neighboring Georgia, the conflict revealed massive shortcomings in its military machine, including disastrously poor air support for ground forces and almost nonexistent aerial reconnaissance capability.
Prime Minister Putin praised the T-50′s first flight as a “big step” in restoring Russia’s traditional place as a global military power, and pledged that the air force will start receiving production models of the plane in about three years.
As Russia’s president, Putin launched a sweeping, $200-billion rearmament program that aims to introduce new generations of nuclear submarines, intercontinental missiles, tanks, and aircraft carriers for the armed forces within the next five years.
Experts say the T-50 fighter, which has been developed in partnership with Russia’s leading arms client India, will also go far toward restoring the tattered reputation of Russia’s military-industrial complex as a leading supplier of weaponry in global markets.
“This is really good advertising; it shows buyers of Russian-made hardware that we can produce the most modern weapons and also improve them,” says Vitaly Shlykov, a former Soviet war planner who now works as a civilian adviser to the Russian Defense Ministry.
“We invested a lot in this plane, and the fact that we can fly it has a big psychological impact,” he says. “It has a huge symbolic meaning for Russia itself.”
But skeptics say we’d best wait for more details about the top-secret plane of which we have seen, so far, only a few superficial images.
“We see the plane has some external characteristics that are new, but we have no way of knowing whether it actually possesses the technological features that would make it a fighter of the fifth generation,” says Alexander Golts, military expert for the independent Yezhednevny Zhurnal, an online news magazine.
“It’s great that it took off. Hurray. But I want to know a lot more about it.”
Russia’s National Media Group cites economic motives in moving REN TV and the outspoken St. Petersburg Channel Five. But critics worry the partnering move with Russia Today may presage a loss of editorial freedom
Russia’s last two independent TV voices, citing financial distress, have announced a major “restructuring” that may involve partnering with state agencies, with what many liberal critics fear could be an inevitable loss of editorial freedom.
Officials of the National Media Group, which owns the independent REN TV and the outspoken St. Petersburg Channel Five, insist they’re just looking for economic efficiencies in the reported plans to move REN’s operations into a giant Moscow TV center run by the Kremlin’s pocket news agency, RIA-Novosti, and home to its 24-hour English-language satellite TV station Russia Today (RT). But liberals say they’ve seen this happen several times before, beginning with the Kremlin’s stealthy use of a commercial dispute to take over the only nonstate nationwide TV network, NTV, at the beginning of the Vladimir Putin era in 2001.
“These two small channels are the very last islands of media freedom in Russia, and if they are to be restructured in the ways we have seen, all too often in the past, they will become part of the official propaganda machine,” says Vladimir Ryzhkov, a former independent Duma deputy. “We are all watching this process with deep fears that, once again, economic optimization will actually lead to censorship. In Russia’s TV landscape today, there is basically no freedom.”
RUSSIA TODAY: TECHNICAL SUPPORT, EDITORIAL INFLUENCE?
In the past, the Kremlin’s chosen vehicle for taking over critical media assets was the state-owned natural-gas goliath, Gazprom, but today liberals are pointing their fingers at a surprising new culprit: Russia Today. Started up less than four years ago as a Kremlin project to counter Western “misperceptions” about Russia, RT has burgeoned under a lavish flow of state funding into a huge operation that now boasts an Arabic-language service and a soon-to-launch Spanish service. According to the station’s editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, a new US branch of RT is set to begin broadcasting from studios in Washington, D.C., in January, and will be running special US-oriented programming, 24/7, within a year.
Ms. Simonyan says it’s logical that little stations like REN TV would want to partner with RT, because the English-language station now possesses one of the most modern and sophisticated broadcasting centers in the country.
“Because of this, we can support them technologically,” she says. “We are not going to interfere with their editorial content. That’s not the idea at all.”
That pledge is also offered by officials of the two beleaguered stations, who say they are forced to make radical changes due to sagging advertising revenues and rising shareholder demands to show a profit. “We need to find new premises for REN TV, and we may outsource some technical functions,” says Asya Pomeranets, a company public relations representative. “But the stations will retain their distinctive content.”
Simonyan argues that RT, which offers a variety of news, talk and documentary programming, itself enjoys “absolute editorial independence” from its main financial sponsor, the Kremlin. “What we do is offer a different view of the world, a list of stories you won’t see covered in the mainstream media,” she says. “Our goal is to do good journalism and increase our audience, and not to please someone up there.”
‘I NEVER THOUGHT I’D SEE THIS DAY’
Still, giant state-funded broadcasters like RT are thriving, while little independent outlets like REN are gasping for air, and that points to an inevitable outcome, some experts argue.
“What RT makes is a packaged propaganda product, which is bought and paid for by the Kremlin,” says Alexei Samokhvalov, a former director of REN TV who now heads the independent National TV and Radio Research Center in Moscow.
“In another country, it might seem normal for TV stations to share technical facilities while maintaining separate editorial lines, but in Russia it does not work that way,” Mr. Samokhvalov says.
“If REN TV moves into the RT’s headquarters, and becomes dependent upon them for its very existence, it will lose its independence. When I was director of REN TV, we prized our independence. I never thought I’d see this day,” he adds.
REN TV has grown from a tiny independent station into a nationwide TV network that now enjoys about 6 percent of Russia’s market share, a tiny blip compared with the three state-owned TV behemoths, but beloved to Russian liberals because of its relatively independent editorial stance.
“If you compare with the other media outlets, REN is by far the most liberal, most outspoken, and shows the greatest degree of independence,” says Vladimir Pozner, a leading Russian TV personality. “If it were to lose its independence, I would find that very disheartening.”
KREMLIN MEDIA CRACKDOWN
When Vladimir Putin came to power, nearly a decade ago, he began cracking down on Russia’s once diverse and combative media spectrum, using economic levers of influence rather than Soviet-style brute force to corral journalists, critics have long said. The state-backed takeover of NTV by Gazprom produced a chilling effect on TV broadcasters around the country. The Kremlin subsequently orchestrated the downfall of smaller TV networks that failed to come to heel, including TV-6 in 2002 and TVS the following year. Some public opinion services, which provide journalists with raw information, were also brought under state control, leaving only a handful of small-circulation outfits, such as the liberal Ekho Moskvi radio station, that some critics say are allowed to exist as political window-dressing.
“Very clearly, the government wants that kind of window to remain open, because it’s a way of saying ‘Hey, we have democracy in Russia,’ to the rest of the world,” says Mr. Pozner. “Maybe they see REN TV playing this kind of role, and perhaps that will save it.”
Russia’s beleaguered liberals, who have watched the political landscape turn into a Sovietesque one-party show under Putin and his successor, Dmitri Medvedev, say they hold out little hope for the survival of the last media holdouts.
“Unfortunately, everything that has happened on the TV media front since Putin became president in 2000 suggests that the last vestiges of independent television will be muzzled as well,” says Mr. Ryzhkov.
Former leader Mikhail Gorbachev and others are outraged after last week’s elections, which only 3 percent of Russians believed were fair, according to a poll.
MOSCOW – What can one single vote, confirmed missing, tell us about the current state of democracy in Russia?
A lot, says Sergei Mitrokhin, leader of the liberal Yabloko party. He says that the lost vote in question – his own – offers startling evidence to back widespread opposition claims that regional polls held across Russia last week were stage-managed to ensure the victory of pro-Kremlin forces.
The United Russia (UR) party, which is led by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, won about 80 percent of all contested positions in some 7,000 districts around the country. In the crucial center of Moscow, UR swept up 32 of the 35 city council seats.
Along with millions of other Russians, Mr. Mitrokhin went with his family to vote at their local polling station, No. 192, in Moscow’s tony Khamovniki district on election day. He knows for sure that he voted for his own party ticket.
But when the final official tally was released last weekend, it showed that zero votes for Yabloko were registered at polling station No. 192.
“We know there were massive falsifications in the vote counting, but really, not a single vote for Yabloko?” says Mitrokhin. “It’s almost as if they wanted to prove I don’t exist as a living being. It looks like the authorities are not even trying to pretend any longer that we are having real elections.”
Gorbachev: democratic system is ‘maimed’
A public opinion survey published this week by the daily Noviye Izvestia newspaper found that just 3 percent of respondents believe the elections were a fair and true democratic exercise. A third thought that UR’s victory was due to “massive falsifications” while a further 44 percent said the party benefited unduly from its command of “administrative resources,” meaning official influence, state media backing, and access to government funds.
Yabloko has documented multiple cases of what is says is official fraud, coercion, and other legal violations in the election campaign and subsequent voting, some of which has been translated and posted on the party’s English-language website (http://www.eng.yabloko.ru/).
But Mitrokhin’s outrage over what looks like the most seriously miscarried electoral exercise in Russia’s post-Soviet history has been increasingly echoed by independent commentators, including the father of Russia’s troubled democracy, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.
“In the eyes of everyone, elections have turned into a mockery of the people and people have great distrust over how their votes are used,” Mr. Gorbachev told the opposition weekly Novaya Gazeta, of which he is part owner, on Monday.
“What is democracy when the people don’t participate in it?” he said. “The electoral system has been utterly maimed. We need an alternative.”
‘Everyone knows the electoral process is dirty’
Last week, scores of opposition parliamentarians staged a walkout from the State Duma to dramatize their complaints about the elections, but by Monday all but a few deputies of the Communist Party had returned.
The chairman of Russia’s official Electoral Commission, Vladimir Churov, warned the protesting lawmakers that they might be breaking the law, and added if they had doubts about the process they could challenge them by “signing an official protocol” of complaint. If that doesn’t work, he added, they can “file a lawsuit.”
Lawsuits against electoral authorities in the past have almost always been dismissed by state-dominated courts.
“Everyone knows that the electoral process is dirty, and that UR basically controls the system,” says Alexei Mukhin, director of the independent Center for Political Technologies in Moscow. “In fact, the whole world sees this, and it’s causing serious damage to the image of the country’s top leaders. The Kremlin needs to take action to change this situation,” before the next cycle of elections in just over two years time, he says.
Since Mr. Putin came to power in 2000, Russia’s political system has been forcibly reshaped to eliminate pesky opposition parties and game elections to favor the giant and reliably pro-Kremlin UR. Mr. Putin’s party now controls the vast majority of regional legislatures, most big city councils, and a more than two-thirds majority in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament.
That system, dubbed “managed democracy,” reached a climax last year when Putin ushered his hand-picked successor Dmitri Medvedev into the Kremlin against virtually no opposition.
Kremlin facade of democracy
The Kremlin’s efforts to create a facade that looks like genuinely contested elections – while ruthlessly eliminating serious contenders – took on almost comical dimensions in polls to choose a new mayor for Sochi, the host of the 2014 Olympic Games, where Putin has invested about $12 billion of the state’s cash and much of his own personal credibility.
In the event last March, Putin’s candidate won with a 77 percent majority, while opposition candidates and democracy activists launched futile protests over what they called heavy-handed state manipulation at every stage of the process.
But experts say the wave of regional elections carried out last week make those polls look almost fair by comparison.
“As we have seen in the past, candidates who were unwanted by the authorities were simply disqualified early in the process,” says Andrei Buzin, chairman of the Interregional Association of Voters, a grassroots monitoring group. “As before, the police were often deployed to block opposition activities and meetings. But, unlike the past, when we didn’t see direct falsifications, there was a lot of falsification in the vote counting in these elections.”
Mr. Buzin says “the situation is getting worse, subjectively and objectively, much worse.”
Former Russian deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov, who faced huge obstacles in his bid to run for mayor of Sochi last April, says that this time around no candidate from his Solidarnost movement was allowed to run for city office in Moscow.
“Every single one of our candidates was disqualified, supposedly due to fraudulent signatures on their nomination forms,” says Mr. Nemtsov. Even Nemtsov’s own signature on one of the forms was declared invalid by officials, he says.
“It’s absolutely terrible, like an election in the German Democratic Republic [the former East Germany],” he says. “Forget about elections in this country. It’s just fraud, manipulation, and corruption. It’s a great big fiction.”
Many gay rights activists think Obama isn’t doing enough. But he’s in no rush on same-sex marriage or the military’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy.
Does that kind of clearly dominant constituency — one that’s more politically-attuned than the rest of the electorate — come with any political obligation regarding gay rights? You bet it does, and this weekend Obama is acknowledging the debt.
So far, his is a mixed record.
While Obama remains opposed to marriage among same-sex couples, in June he extended some benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees. And he has taken steps to include among his administration openly gay officials.
John Berry, the director of the Office of Personnel Management, is the government’s highest-ranking gay official. David Huebner, chief lawyer for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, has been nominated ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa. Mr. Huebner would be just the second openly gay US ambassador. (The first was appointed by Bill Clinton.)
Marriage and the US military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gay men and women in uniform remain the toughest issues for the nation — and especially for Obama.
The Pew Research Center reported Friday that while most Americans favor civil unions for same-sex couples, they remain opposed to gay marriage.
It’s an issue that transcends government policy to an unusual extent, carrying significant moral and religious overtones. Pew finds that “nearly half of the public (49 percent) says homosexual behavior is morally wrong, while 9 percent say it is morally acceptable and 35 percent say it is not a moral issue.”
Meanwhile, the armed services for years have wrestled with the Pentagon’s policy regarding gay service members — a policy which senior retired officers (and even some on active duty) increasingly have spoken out against at a time when the troops, like the relatively young cohort of Americans they’re part of, don’t see the point in discriminating against gay men and lesbians.
Many gay rights advocates are losing patience with Obama who (unlike Bill Clinton) has no inclination to jump right into the military issue.
“Eleven months after his election, he has failed to deliver on any of his commitments to gay Americans, but even worse has been his refusal to engage around these issues,” Richard Socarides, who advised President Bill Clinton’s administration on gay and lesbian policy, told the Associated Press.
“What he needs to do now is engage and deliver,” said Socarides. “Spend some of his political capital on ending the gay military ban, a hugely symbolic issue. And with no intellectually sound arguments left against it, come out squarely for gay marriage equality.”
Obama also is being nudged to retire today’s military policy by many members of Congress. Led by Rep. Patrick Murphy (D) of Pennsylvania (the first Iraq war veteran elected to Congress) 176 House members have signed on to a bill doing away with don’t ask, don’t tell.
Obama is eager to sign the new hate crimes law. And White House officials push back against the notion that the president is dragging his feet on gay rights.
“The president has been very clear. He’s not hiding, he’s not avoiding [the gay and lesbian] issue,” Melody Barnes, the president’s top domestic policy adviser, told the Washington Post. “He has walked into a range of different communities as well as looked into the eyes of those in the GLBT community and been very clear about what he supports and what he wants done and the way he thinks it’s practical to get it done.”
New York Sun
The man who served as the no. 2 official in Saddam Hussein‘s air force says Iraq moved weapons of mass destruction into Syria before the war by loading the weapons into civilian aircraft in which the passenger seats were removed.
“There are weapons of mass destruction gone out from Iraq to Syria, and they must be found and returned to safe hands,” Mr. Sada said. “I am confident they were taken over.”
Mr. Sada’s comments come just more than a month after Israel’s top general during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Moshe Yaalon, told the Sun that Saddam “transferred the chemical agents from Iraq to Syria.”
Democrats have made the absence of stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq a theme in their criticism of the Bush administration’s decision to go to war in 2003. And President Bush himself has conceded much of the point; in a televised prime-time address to Americans last month, he said, “It is true that many nations believed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. But much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong.”
Said Mr. Bush, “We did not find those weapons.”
The discovery of the weapons in Syria could alter the American political debate on the Iraq war. And even the accusations that they are there could step up international pressure on the government in Damascus. That government, led by Bashar Assad, is already facing a U.N. investigation over its alleged role in the assassination of a former prime minister of Lebanon. The Bush administration has criticized Syria for its support of terrorism and its failure to cooperate with the U.N. investigation.
The State Department recently granted visas for self-proclaimed opponents of Mr. Assad to attend a “Syrian National Council” meeting in Washington scheduled for this weekend, even though the attendees include communists, Baathists, and members of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood group to the exclusion of other, more mainstream groups.
Mr. Sada, 65, told the Sun that the pilots of the two airliners that transported the weapons of mass destruction to Syria from Iraq approached him in the middle of 2004, after Saddam was captured by American troops.
“I know them very well. They are very good friends of mine. We trust each other. We are friends as pilots,” Mr. Sada said of the two pilots. He declined to disclose their names, saying they are concerned for their safety. But he said they are now employed by other airlines outside Iraq.
The pilots told Mr. Sada that two Iraqi Airways Boeings were converted to cargo planes by removing the seats, Mr. Sada said. Then Special Republican Guard brigades loaded materials onto the planes, he said, including “yellow barrels with skull and crossbones on each barrel.” The pilots said there was also a ground convoy of trucks.
The flights – 56 in total, Mr. Sada said – attracted little notice because they were thought to be civilian flights providing relief from Iraq to Syria, which had suffered a flood after a dam collapse in June of 2002.
“Saddam realized, this time, the Americans are coming,” Mr. Sada said. “They handed over the weapons of mass destruction to the Syrians.”
Mr. Sada said that the Iraqi official responsible for transferring the weapons was a cousin of Saddam Hussein named Ali Hussein al-Majid, known as “Chemical Ali.” The Syrian official responsible for receiving them was a cousin of Bashar Assad who is known variously as General Abu Ali, Abu Himma, or Zulhimawe.
Short of discovering the weapons in Syria, those seeking to validate Mr. Sada’s claim independently will face difficulty. His book contains a foreword by a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, David Eberly, who was a prisoner of war in Iraq during the first Gulf War and who vouches for Mr. Sada, who once held him captive, as “an honest and honorable man.”
In his visit to the Sun yesterday, Mr. Sada was accompanied by Terry Law, the president of a Tulsa, Oklahoma based Christian humanitarian organization called World Compassion. Mr. Law said he has known Mr. Sada since 2002, lived in his house in Iraq and had Mr. Sada as a guest in his home in America. “Do I believe this man? Yes,” Mr. Law said. “It’s been solid down the line and everything checked out.”
Said Mr. Law, “This is not a publicity hound. This is a man who wants peace putting his family on the line.”
Mr. Sada acknowledged that the disclosures about transfers of weapons of mass destruction are “a very delicate issue.” He said he was afraid for his family. “I am sure the terrorists will not like it. The Saddamists will not like it,” he said.
He thanked the American troops. “They liberated the country and the nation. It is a liberation force. They did a great job,” he said. “We have been freed.”
He said he had not shared his story until now with any American officials. “I kept everything secret in my heart,” he said. But he is scheduled to meet next week in Washington with Senators Sessions and Inhofe, Republicans of, respectively, Alabama and Oklahoma. Both are members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The book also says that on the eve of the first Gulf War, Saddam was planning to use his air force to launch a chemical weapons attack on Israel.
When, during an interview with the Sun in April 2004, Vice President Cheney was asked whether he thought that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction had been moved to Syria, Mr. Cheney replied only that he had seen such reports.
An article in the Fall 2005 Middle East Quarterly reports that in an appearance on Israel’s Channel 2 on December 23, 2002, Israel’s prime minister, Ariel Sharon, stated, “Chemical and biological weapons which Saddam is endeavoring to conceal have been moved from Iraq to Syria.” The allegation was denied by the Syrian government at the time as “completely untrue,” and it attracted scant American press attention, coming as it did on the eve of the Christmas holiday.
The Syrian ruling party and Saddam Hussein had in common the ideology of Baathism, a mixture of Nazism and Marxism.
Syria is one of only eight countries that has not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, a treaty that obligates nations not to stockpile or use chemical weapons. Syria’s chemical warfare program, apart from any weapons that may have been received from Iraq, has long been the source of concern to America, Israel, and Lebanon. In March 2004, the director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, saying, “Damascus has an active CW development and testing program that relies on foreign suppliers for key controlled chemicals suitable for producing CW.”
The CIA’s Iraq Survey Group acknowledged in its September 30, 2004, “Comprehensive Report,” “we cannot express a firm view on the possibility that WMD elements were relocated out of Iraq prior to the war. Reports of such actions exist, but we have not yet been able to investigate this possibility thoroughly.”
Mr. Sada is an unusual figure for an Iraqi general as he is a Christian and was not a member of the Baath Party. He now directs the Iraq operations of the Christian humanitarian organization, World Compassion.
Note: This article was originally published in 2006.
America reacts to Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize
By Drew Zahn
“It’s not April 1, is it?” a White House aide reportedly asked ABC’s Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos.
In an official statement, the president says he was “most surprised and deeply humbled.”
Others have expressed similar shock that Obama, in office for less than 10 months, had been awarded the prize. Underlying the shock is the fact that the deadline for filing nominations for the award is Feb. 1 of any given year, meaning the president was nominated after being in office for just 11 days.
“The real question Americans are asking is, ‘What has President Obama actually accomplished?’” said Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele in a statement. “It is unfortunate that the president’s star power has outshined tireless advocates who have made real achievements working towards peace and human rights.”
A shocked Michael Savage further blasted the Nobel Prize committee for its choice:
“What has [Obama] done? Has he discovered a cure for brain cancer I don’t know about?” the talk radio host asked in a Newsweek interview. “We all know what the Nobel Prize committee is ever since Yasir Arafat won. It’s a radical leftist front group that hijacked Alfred Nobel’s prize.”
Fellow radio talker Rush Limbaugh also heaped on criticism, stating that awarding the prize to such an unaccomplished president is a “greater embarrassment” than Obama’s recent failed bid to bring the Olympic Games to Chicago.
“This fully exposes the illusion that is Barack Obama,” Limbaugh told POLITICO in an e-mail. “And with this ‘award’ the elites of the world are urging Obama, THE MAN OF PEACE, to not do the surge in Afghanistan, not take action against Iran and its nuclear program and to basically continue his intentions to emasculate the United States.”
Limbaugh continued, “They love a weakened, neutered U.S., and this is their way of promoting that concept.”
Other reactions, however, have been glowing:
“Obama got the prize not for doing, but for being. Not for making peace, but for exemplifying something new on the world stage – the politics of dignity,” wrote Robert Fuller, former president of Oberlin College, on the Huffington Post. “What is dignitarian politics? It is the recognition that people the world over actually want dignity more than they want either liberty or equality. In policy terms, it means ensuring dignity for all – within and among nations.”
Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said in a statement, “We are pleased that our president has been awarded one of the highest honors for any world leader. Under president Obama’s leadership, our nation is beginning to restore its international image as a beacon of peace and justice.”
He continued, “CAIR and the American Muslim community stand ready to partner with President Obama in promoting the ‘mutual interest and mutual respect’ he mentioned in his inaugural address.”
WND readers have sent in their share of comments, too.
“To the best of my knowledge, no American President in modern history with no significant foreign policy experience, no major world-shaking legislation to his credit as a junior senator with two years of experience and only a few weeks in office as president before the deadline for nominations ended has won a Nobel Peace Prize,” writes WND reader Geoffrey Cox. “Surely this could only be accomplished either by a figure of deity, or by the voting of some incredibly stupid or corrupt Norwegians – I’m going with the latter.”
Obama is the third sitting U.S. president to win the award, after Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, the former in the fifth year of his presidency for negotiating an end to the Russo-Japanese war and the latter in the sixth year of his administration, largely for his role in establishing the League of Nations.
Other WND readers have also taken exception to awarding the Nobel Prize to a president with few international accomplishments:
- “The Nobel Peace Prize nine months into his term for … what?” asks WND reader Henry Frickel. “That’s like giving me, a guy who barely knows how to cut-and-paste and thinks Excel is something you do with that pedal on the right, the Computer World ‘Techie of the Year Award.’”
- “Obama winning the Nobel, what a joke!” scoffed reader Sherry Perkins. “How do you win a Nobel Prize for peace when you have troops killing people in another country?”
- “Has President Obama reduced standing armies? Did he speak out for the peace process when thousands of Iranians were slaughtered in the streets? No,” writes reader Louis Frederick. “He managed to convince most the world that America is arrogant, uncaring and not worthy of the superpower status we once held. He stood with hands on hips while Russia rolled over the democratic state of Georgia, and the reward was the removal of a missile shield from Czechoslovakia. He flaps lips while Iran is feverishly working on nuclear weapons to bring ‘peace’ to the Middle East by destroying the democratic state of Israel. Ludicrous.”
- R.C. Rochte comments, “So, ‘The One’ has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (on credit for more surrenders of American sovereignty in the future, no doubt).”
Other reactions from around the country have challenged Obama’s merit for the award, not on his resume but on his politics. Judie Brown, president of American Life League, released the following statement:
“Bestowing the Nobel Prize on the most rabid pro-abortion president in history is a direct slap in the face to past recipient, Mother Teresa of Calcutta who said, upon receiving her Nobel Peace Prize: ‘the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a direct war, a direct killing – direct murder by the mother herself.’” Brown said. “In awarding the prize to Obama, the Nobel Committee is announcing that abortion is the cornerstone of a hellish ‘peace’ – the damning silence of 51 million aborted children in the United States alone.”
She concluded, “The Nobel Committee has bestowed the ‘Peace Prize’ on a man dedicated to war in the womb.”
Geir Lundestad, director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, however, defended the choice – even stating the vote was unanimous – on ABC’s “Good Morning America”:
“President Obama has changed very dramatically international politics,” Lundestad said. “We feel he has emphasized multilateral diplomacy, he has addressed international institutions, dialogue negotiations. He has inspired the world with his vision of a world without nuclear arms. He has changed the U.S. policy dramatically. There’s a whole list.”
As for the president himself, Obama said from the White House Rose Garden, “I do not feel I deserve to be in the company of so many transformative figures who have been honored by this prize.”
“I also know this prize reflects the kind of world that those men and women … want to build,” Obama said of the prize committee. “I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments but rather an affirmation of American leadership.”
He concluded, “I will accept this award as a call to action.”
By Damien McElroy and Ahmad Vahdat
A photograph of the Iranian president holding up his identity card during elections in March 2008 clearly shows his family has Jewish roots. A close-up of the document reveals he was previously known as Sabourjian – a Jewish name meaning cloth weaver.
The short note scrawled on the card suggests his family changed its name to Ahmadinejad when they converted to embrace Islam after his birth.
The Sabourjians traditionally hail from Aradan, Mr Ahmadinejad’s birthplace, and the name derives from “weaver of the Sabour”, the name for the Jewish Tallit shawl in Persia. The name is even on the list of reserved names for Iranian Jews compiled by Iran‘s Ministry of the Interior.
Experts last night suggested Mr Ahmadinejad’s track record for hate-filled attacks on Jews could be an overcompensation to hide his past.
Ali Nourizadeh, of the Centre for Arab and Iranian Studies, said: “This aspect of Mr Ahmadinejad’s background explains a lot about him.
“Every family that converts into a different religion takes a new identity by condemning their old faith.
“By making anti-Israeli statements he is trying to shed any suspicions about his Jewish connections. He feels vulnerable in a radical Shia society.”
A London-based expert on Iranian Jewry said that “jian” ending to the name specifically showed the family had been practising Jews.
“He has changed his name for religious reasons, or at least his parents had,” said the Iranian-born Jew living in London. “Sabourjian is well known Jewish name in Iran.”
A spokesman for the Israeli embassy in London said it would not be drawn on Mr Ahmadinejad’s background. “It’s not something we’d talk about,” said Ron Gidor, a spokesman.
The Iranian leader has not denied his name was changed when his family moved to Tehran in the 1950s. But he has never revealed what it was change from or directly addressed the reason for the switch.
Relatives have previously said a mixture of religious reasons and economic pressures forced his blacksmith father Ahmad to change when Mr Ahmadinejad was aged four.
The Iranian president grew up to be a qualified engineer with a doctorate in traffic management. He served in the Revolutionary Guards militia before going on to make his name in hardline politics in the capital.
During this year’s presidential debate on television he was goaded to admit that his name had changed but he ignored the jibe.
However Mehdi Khazali, an internet blogger, who called for an investigation of Mr Ahmadinejad’s roots was arrested this summer.
Mr Ahmadinejad has regularly levelled bitter criticism at Israel, questioned its right to exist and denied the Holocaust. British diplomats walked out of a UN meeting last month after the Iranian president denounced Israel’s ‘genocide, barbarism and racism.’
Benjamin Netanyahu made an impassioned denunciation of the Iranian leader at the same UN summit. “Yesterday, the man who calls the Holocaust a lie spoke from this podium,” he said. “A mere six decades after the Holocaust, you give legitimacy to a man who denies the murder of six million Jews while promising to wipe out the State of Israel, the State of the Jews. What a disgrace. What a mockery of the charter of the United Nations.”
Mr Ahmadinejad has been consistently outspoken about the Nazi attempt to wipe out the Jewish race. “They have created a myth today that they call the massacre of Jews and they consider it a principle above God, religions and the prophets,” he declared at a conference on the holocaust staged in Tehran in 2006.